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Old 10-15-2013, 01:33 PM   #1
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Default How to handle too-low temps

For someone like me who can't get a temp-controlled mini fridge, summer was easy to understand, if a bit tedious - when your ferm temp is getting higher than you like, throw some ice or frozen water bottles into the swamp cooler to bring the temp down. Repeat forever.

Now I've got the opposite problem. I like to keep my house at about 60 or lower on the thermostat, but that means that my fermentor is always slowly cooling to below the yeast's ideal temp range. Being that the weather just cooled off where I am, I'm reacting by putting hot water into the swamp cooler. Now, is this the best approach, or is there some other way to keep the fermentor warmer (~65-70F) without all the constant temp adjustments?

Along the same lines, does lower than 70 temps affect bottle conditioning & carbonation? If the bottles get down to about 60, will they still carb OK, or do I need to ensure warmer temps for those as well?

Slightly unrelated, since my house is generally at 52 or so in the winter (hate high gas bills), that's right in the temp wheelhouse of lager yeast, right? So other than lower temps, what are the differences in making lagers vs ales? I take it the fermentation time is longer, but how much longer?

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Old 10-15-2013, 01:43 PM   #2
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Well ales will definitely take longer, they usually like it 66 or better. But they will still work though. Bottle carbing will certainly take longer as well. A good option would be to make yourself a fermentation chamber, keep the gas bill down and a small space heater that is thermostat controlled would likely do well for you. If you have the space a closet would be perfect, and you could bottle condition in there as well.

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Old 10-15-2013, 01:49 PM   #3
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You'll be fine at 60 and most ales will have no problem at all at that temp. Many yeast strains do just fine under the "ideal" temp. The temp rise will even push the temp into the low mid 60s at that temp.

In the winter try using yeasts like Kolsch or Scottish ale because they like to be in the 50s.

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Old 10-15-2013, 02:01 PM   #4
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At 60, I would pitch ale yeast in the 63-64 range and wrap it in a blanket or sleeping bag. That should insulate it until the yeast starts adding its own heat. You can likely remove the insulation on day 2 once the temps start to rise. I would get a weather thermometer probe stuck to the side of the fermenter (with paper towels and tape to insulate).

Agree with Jon above, Kolsch yeast (WY2565) loves to ferment in the 56-59 F range. You do need to pitch a large starter though.

As far as lagers go, I would chill to 48F for most strains, and pitch a LARGE starter (think big here, 3.5-4L or so for moderate sub 1.055 OG lagers). Then try to chill in swamp cooler to keep at 48 or so. The other lager trick is usually in timing. You want to watch the fermentation closely, and when it has fermented approximately 80% of the sugar, you want to rise into upper 50's for 48 hours for a diacetyl rest. My D-rests come between 1 and 1.5 weeks of primary. Then you want to chill into the mid 30's for lagering. Generally a 6-10 week lagering process depending on gravity. You can do this in the bottle, but you should bottle carb first, which does not get you quite the same crisp clean result. Still should be a fine beer though. I do recommend trying at least one lager, its fun and a little more challenging.

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Old 10-15-2013, 02:04 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spark_plug View Post
Well ales will definitely take longer, they usually like it 66 or better. But they will still work though. Bottle carbing will certainly take longer as well. A good option would be to make yourself a fermentation chamber, keep the gas bill down and a small space heater that is thermostat controlled would likely do well for you. If you have the space a closet would be perfect, and you could bottle condition in there as well.
Unfortunately in my tiny house, I do not even have that much room. The hope is to move within 9 months to a year, and you better believe a "must have" for the next place will be a room just for all this stuff.

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Originally Posted by JonM View Post
You'll be fine at 60 and most ales will have no problem at all at that temp. Many yeast strains do just fine under the "ideal" temp. The temp rise will even push the temp into the low mid 60s at that temp.

In the winter try using yeasts like Kolsch or Scottish ale because they like to be in the 50s.
Sounds good - I was looking at a Scotch Ale as my next batch anyway, so that works out. The porter I just brewed yesterday is using London Ale yeast, which has an ideal temp range of 65-72. I'll just do my best to keep it at or a little above 65, at least for the next few days.

Thanks guys!

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Originally Posted by solbes View Post
At 60, I would pitch ale yeast in the 63-64 range and wrap it in a blanket or sleeping bag. That should insulate it until the yeast starts adding its own heat. You can likely remove the insulation on day 2 once the temps start to rise. I would get a weather thermometer probe stuck to the side of the fermenter (with paper towels and tape to insulate).

Agree with Jon above, Kolsch yeast (WY2565) loves to ferment in the 56-59 F range. You do need to pitch a large starter though.

As far as lagers go, I would chill to 48F for most strains, and pitch a LARGE starter (think big here, 3.5-4L or so for moderate sub 1.055 OG lagers). Then try to chill in swamp cooler to keep at 48 or so. The other lager trick is usually in timing. You want to watch the fermentation closely, and when it has fermented approximately 80% of the sugar, you want to rise into upper 50's for 48 hours for a diacetyl rest. Then you want to chill into the mid 30's for lagering. Generally a 6-10 week lagering process depending on gravity. You can do this in the bottle, but you should bottle carb first, which does not get you quite the same crisp clean result. Still should be a fine beer though. I do recommend trying at least one lager, its fun and a little more challenging.
Awesome info, thanks! Sounds like lagering is still out of my ability due to the mid 30's requirement. I guess lagers will have to wait til I can get a temp controlled fridge.
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:07 PM   #6
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Fish Aquarium Heater=$20 @ Walmart, use it in your swamp cooler, set it and forget it.

Cheers

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Old 10-15-2013, 02:09 PM   #7
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Fish Aquarium Heater=$20 @ Walmart, use it in your swamp cooler, set it and forget it.

Cheers
Fo' realz? That sounds like an awesome solution!
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Old 10-15-2013, 02:13 PM   #8
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In the winter, get a submersible fish tank heater. Mine was ~$20. Can be set from like 60-88 degrees.

In the summer, since your place is warm, just make saisons

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Old 10-15-2013, 02:14 PM   #9
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I found this thread particularly enlightening:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/wyeast-1214-abbey-ale-yeast-temperature-question-433836/

Check out Denny's comments about the manufacturer's recommended temps sometimes being too high.

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Old 10-15-2013, 02:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JonM View Post
I found this thread particularly enlightening:
http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f163/wyeast-1214-abbey-ale-yeast-temperature-question-433836/

Check out Denny's comments about the manufacturer's recommended temps sometimes being too high.
Thanks! For the porter, I used the London Ale 1028, and on the package it said 65-72, but because of what Denny was saying I checked Wyeast's website and it says 60-72 there which makes me feel better about the batch's current temp. Still gonna get me one of those aquarium heaters.
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